Nudie Jeans is challenging itself with a new set of sustainability targets. The denim brand, known for its organic cotton jeans and repair service, is taking further steps to reduce its chemical intake, scale up its circular business and increase transparency in its supply chain.
In a newly released 2019 sustainability report, the Gothenburg, Sweden-based jeans brand shared its sustainability goals for 2020 and beyond as well as recent achievements and weak spots that need improvement.
For the full year of 2019, 97.7 percent of the products Nudie produced were sustainable, which the company defines as containing at least 70 percent sustainable fibers. This is a 1.1 percent decrease from 2018, however, due to the increased volume of leather garments and accessories, the report stated.
Of the sustainable products, organic cotton remains core to Nudie’s production. The fiber accounts for almost 94 percent of the brand’s total fiber use.
In 2019, the brand also increased its use of alternative fibers, including Tencel, which increased from 0.01 percent of Nudie’s total use in 2018 to 0.62 percent, as well as recycled cotton, recycled polyester and recycled wool for the brand’s growing outerwear business.
And though the brand is a favorite among denim traditionalists, comfort stretch is gaining ground. Comfort stretch, which contains 1 to 3 percent elastane, made up 87.5 percent of Nudie’s denim offering. Rigid denim made with 100 percent organic cotton accounted for 7.5 percent, while super stretch, which contains elastane and polyester made up 5 percent.
Nudie’s collect, repair, reuse and recycling mantra is core to the brand, and it wants to ramp up its circular activities in the user phase.
In 2019, Nudie’s repair locations mended a total of 63,281 pairs of jeans—15 percent more than compared to 2018, the report stated. It sold more than 3,500 Reuse Nudie jeans (a line of refurbished denim) and collected over 11,500 pairs of post-consumer Nudie Jeans for recycling at its repair shops.
This year, Nudie’s goals are to increase the number of collected jeans by 20 percent, increase the number of repaired jeans by 26 percent globally and increase its sales of Reuse jeans by 36 percent. Nudie also plans to release more products made with recycled post-consumer Nudie jeans yarn, which it first introduced in 2019 with two styles of jeans and a T-shirt, each made with 20 percent post-consumer recycled cotton from “pre-loved” Nudie jeans.
These goals will be achieved, in part, through 50 new permanent “repair spots” in owned stores, partner stores or repair partners in the coming years, the report stated. Nudie currently has 43 repair spots globally.
Substituting harmful chemicals in production with less harmful alternatives is on Nudie’s sustainability agenda. The brand’s certification of choice is Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), which it considers to be the most comprehensive. The company encourages its suppliers to become GOTS-certified and to increase their use of GOTS-certified chemicals.
In 2019, Nudie reported that 39 percent of its denim fabrics were GOTS-certified, however, it wants to increase that number to 50 percent by 2022. And it is currently working towards the goal of having 10 percent of its denim styles be GOTS-certified by 2022.
“We have also taken steps toward becoming a GOTS-certified brand,” the company stated, noting that the initial stage will involve GOTS labeling at the product level in its online shop.
Many of the company’s goals to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and gather actual data are in progress. Nudie is currently mapping and offsetting its GHG emissions, and is beginning work to set science-based targets to reduce GHG by 2023. To achieve these goals, the brand is looking into investing in a biogas production project and a wind power project that creates renewable energy.
“By creating a baseline based primarily on actual data instead of generic data, we hope to be able to see the real changes we are working toward in our supply chain reflected in the numbers moving forward,” the company stated in the report.
The company also plans to decrease emissions from business travel by 20 percent by 2020—a reduction that may come sooner as business increasingly becomes digital during the pandemic.
Developing and adapting the concept of living wages at Nudie’s different suppliers is in progress as well. Since 2013, the company has been paying a share of living wages for products at one of its Indian suppliers, and since 2016, just over 3,400 workers have received an additional amount from Nudie Jeans as a step toward increasing wages at selected suppliers, the report stated.
By 2022, Nudie aims to map the wage level at all of its main suppliers. By 2025, the goal is implement a living wage payment to all employees at all of Nudie’s main suppliers in “high-risk” countries.
Goals, data and claims, however, mean little without transparency. This year, Nudie plans to have its full supplier list available online. It will go a step further by 2021 when it provides 100 percent transparency of its suppliers at the product level in its online store.
“We believe that only by knowing all steps—from the cotton fields, fabric process, trims and laundries to the stitching processes and everything in between—will we be able to address non-compliance and take responsibility in our supply chain,” Sandya Lang, Nudie Jeans sustainability manager, stated in the report.
In the green
Nudie’s financial status for 2019 is an example of how sustainability and profitability can coexist in the denim industry. Total revenue for 2019 increased 9 percent compared to 2018.
In particular, direct-to-consumer is especially paying off for Nudie as it is a natural environment to tell the brand’s story. According to the report, 2019 was the first year when the company’s revenues in its own sales channels exceeded 50 percent of the total revenues in the group. While wholesale contributed 49 percent of sales, Nudie’s physical stores contributed 28 percent of total sales and its e-commerce generated 23 percent of total sales.
The majority of the brand’s sales take place in Europe. The rest is evenly divided among Asia, North America and Australia/New Zealand.
“At Nudie Jeans, we believe environmental and social responsibility can be combined with a profitable business. In recent years, we have invested significantly in the corporate group and as a result, we are well positioned for the future,” stated Malte Ramberg, Nudie Jeans CFO. “In 2019, we successfully managed to increase our revenue and profitability. Our strong balance sheet lets us invest further in our vision to become the most sustainable denim company in the world.”